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  1. #1
    Shaun .
    Guest

    How to use ellipses properly

    My grasp of ellipses is more of a pinch

    I'm thinking the “...” punctuation is overused in my MS.

    For example:

    (sentence) All eyes, soft and sympathetic, turned to Gemma and George, but again...misconstrued.

    (long pause in one person's dialogue) “But...” She placed her hands on his shoulders. “...It's time to go.”

    (stammer) "I'm sorry. I...I...”

    Are my methods incorrect? If so, how can these examples be corrected” If not, like bolstering dialogue tags, should I minimize their use?
    Any advice will be dearly appreciated.



  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    461

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    You should definitely minimize their use. Excessive ellipses are viewed as "writerly," the author's attempt to be artsy or create an effect. Traditionally an ellipsis is used in dialog to indicate a trailing off of speech:

    "Whatever you think is best..." Her words trailing off, Susan waggled her fingers at him.

    When speech is interrupted, you use a double dash:

    Robert faced her. "I told you I don't--"

    "No, you're not listening to me. You're just blathering like you always do."

    Exclamation points, like the ellipsis in the middle of a sentence, should be used once in about every 300 pages.

    Jeanne

  3. #3
    Shaun .
    Guest

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    All eyes, soft and sympathetic, turned to Gemma and George, but again, misconstrued. (I'll whittle away at the commas later)

    “But,” She placed her hands on his shoulders. “it's time to go.”

    “I don't know what happened. I just--” “Calm down, Gemma.”

    Thanks Jeanne! (tu) I think I got it, but I have a character who stutters when excited. Is this next sentence right?

    “I'm sorry. I-- I--”

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    508

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    I read a book a ways back with a stuttering character. Seems like I remember a lot of: I-I-I wish y-you would give m-me--" Then some other character would complete his sentences. The hyphen between initial stuttered letters and a dash to show when he was interrupted. Guess I'd try that before the ellipses, which signify more of a pause than a repetition. Be interesting to see how this is handled in published books.

  5. #5
    Shaun .
    Guest

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    Thanks C K. I knew the "..." was wrong, but I only learned of the -- today, thanks to Jeanne. I don't know why, but I never paid it much mind when reading. I always questioned it, but never researched it. I just hope stuttering dialogue doesn't translate to weak dialogue. (as I'm sure it will)

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    508

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    Motherless Brooklyn had a main character with Tourette's. I can't remember how Lethem did the dialog but it worked. I'd check that one out. I'm sure there are others.

  7. #7
    Shaun .
    Guest

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    Just as I was readying a google search for books with stuttering characters.(tu)
    Thanks C K.
    Preesh!

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    487

    Re: How to use ellipses properly

    "I-I-I --" would be right for someone actually stuttering or saying "I" several times very quickly.

    "I...I..." would, in my opinion, be better for someone starting a sentence and trailing off, then doing so again.

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